Mystery Apple chip discovered in iMac Pro teardown not A10 Fusion coprocessor [u]

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2018
A careful disassembly of the new iMac Pro has found another Apple-made chip in addition to the new T2, though close inspection of the silicon reveals it is not the A10 Fusion coprocessor some expected would be included in the powerful all-in-one.




In taking apart the new iMac Pro, iFixit discovered an Apple chip identified as "338S00268," which the repair experts said "appears to be the rumored A10 Fusion coprocessor." Notably, the chip discovered near the solid-state hard drive is separate from the T2 chip, which handles secure booting, password encryption and more.

The firm later recanted its hypothesis, saying the package is too small to contain an A10's innards.

The discovery of a second Apple chip does, however, refuel speculation as to what exactly the hardware is for.

Prior to the shipment of the iMac Pro, developers found indications in macOS High Sierra that an A10 processor could be included inside of the machine, generating rumors that the iMac Pro might boast always-on "Hey Siri" support and more. However, no such capabilities were found once the machine shipped, suggesting the custom silicon serves a different purpose.




iFixit's teardown also found that upgrading the RAM on Apple's iMac Pro is a possibility, but not without a "major undertaking." After taking apart the machine, they found that the RAM used comes on standard 288-pin DDR4 ECC sticks.

Accordingly, the solutions provider swapped in four 32-gigabyte modules for 128 gigabytes.




Less clear on upgradeability, however, is the CPU, which appears to have been custom-made for the iMac Pro. Assuming Intel sells compatible models to consumers at some point, replacing the CPU should be "theoretically possible," iFixit said.

One thing that won't be upgraded, however, is the graphics card, as iFixit found that the GPU is soldered in place.

Though iFixit only gave the iMac Pro a repairability score of 3 out of 10, the site did say that the machine "goes back together just fine." they plan to offer a step-by-step upgrade guide soon.

Update: In a subsequent tweet, iFixit said the mystery chip is too small to be an A10 Fusion coprocessor.

"Whoops! We initially thought this Apple 338S00268 chip was the rumored A10 Fusion coprocessor, but the package size is too small (roughly 7.4 mm each side). What do you think it is? Maybe a PMIC of some sort?" iFixit said.

The story has been updated to reflect iFixit's statement.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    Guys.
    What is wrong with a MBP with an external GPU?
    Is there a reason I don’t know to why they aren’t so popular.
    cornchipfastasleep
  • Reply 2 of 26
    Guys.
    What is wrong with a MBP with an external GPU?
    Is there a reason I don’t know to why they aren’t so popular.
    I don't know if there are performance issues but it would somewhat diminish the whole AiO concept.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 26
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 750editor
    Guys.
    What is wrong with a MBP with an external GPU?
    Is there a reason I don’t know to why they aren’t so popular.
    For me, the biggest rub is you can't drive the eGPU horsepower to the MBP's internal Retina display. And because the only Retina-caliber monitors out there are LG UltraFine models that connect via USB-C and TB3, you can't use those with any eGPU rigs at the moment either, because graphics cards use legacy inputs like HDMI. So eGPU+MBP is fine for a dual-monitor setup, or with a VR headset, but I think dual monitors diminish the appeal of the Touch Bar.

    Apple is getting back into the display market, so I imagine we'll see some Retina-caliber displays that connect over TB3, and maybe even have their own integrated eGPUs. Toss in an external Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar, and I'm in -- but I might be asking for too much in 2018.
    racerhomie3cornchipjSnivelywatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 26
    Can I use TB2 Mac with an external GPU to play GTA 5 ?
    Do you have any experience with that?

    I want to test the eGPU setup on the Mac Mini 2014.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 26
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 750editor
    Can I use TB2 Mac with an external GPU to play GTA 5 ?
    Do you have any experience with that?

    I want to test the eGPU setup on the Mac Mini 2014.
    You can hack it to work over Thunderbolt 2, but you lose some of the processing capabilities of the eGPU because the bandwidth is limited. I suspect the CPU would end up being the bottleneck on a 2014 Mac mini.

    This topic isn't really related to the story at hand, so I won't be commenting anymore, but we have some info on eGPU over Thunderbolt 2 (and 1) in this article if you're interested:

    http://appleinsider.com/articles/17/09/04/apples-egpu-work-in-high-sierra-is-impressive-but-six-more-months-will-make-it-better
    racerhomie3jSnivelywatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 26
    This may be a dumb question, but is there any way the mysterious chip could be used to basically run iOS inside or beside macOS?

    This would actually be useful for me. There’s an indispensable Chinese data/reference/research tool I use that is iOS only.
    edited January 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 26
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 750editor
    This may be a dumb question, but is there any way the mysterious chip could be used to basically run iOS inside or beside macOS?

    This would actually be useful for me. There’s an indispensable Chinese data/reference/research tool I use that is iOS only.
    Until we know what the chip actually is (which will require an X-ray of it, and someone willing to pony up $5,000 to let their iMac Pro be destroyed), it's impossible to say. Not a dumb question though!

    From a user perspective, I don't think we're going to see vanilla iOS apps on the Mac (though the rumor is a unified code base coming in 2018 will make it easier to port and update/enhance iOS apps for the Mac). From a developer perspective, Xcode already emulates running apps on the Mac, and having an A-series coprocessor could be handy for developers.

    If it really is an A10 chip, and it's not currently being used for anything in the iMac Pro, then it could be an example of Apple baking hardware in for a future software update. I find that to be unlikely, however, and would imagine that the chip is being used for something already. If it's an A10, that's a pretty beefy chip (more powerful than the T2). iFixit noted the markings found on the mystery chip are different than the A10, so I suspect it may not be an A10 at all. We'll see — I don't think this story is done with yet.
    edited January 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 26
    GG1GG1 Posts: 236member
    nhughes said:
    This may be a dumb question, but is there any way the mysterious chip could be used to basically run iOS inside or beside macOS?

    This would actually be useful for me. There’s an indispensable Chinese data/reference/research tool I use that is iOS only.
    Until we know what the chip actually is (which will require an X-ray of it, and someone willing to pony up $5,000 to let their iMac Pro be destroyed), it's impossible to say. Not a dumb question though!

    From a user perspective, I don't think we're going to see vanilla iOS apps on the Mac (though the rumor is a unified code base coming in 2018 will make it easier to port and update/enhance iOS apps for the Mac). From a developer perspective, Xcode already emulates running apps on the Mac, and having an A-series coprocessor could be handy for developers.

    If it really is an A10 chip, and it's not currently being used for anything in the iMac Pro, then it could be an example of Apple baking hardware in for a future software update. I find that to be unlikely, however, and would imagine that the chip is being used for something already. If it's an A10, that's a pretty beefy chip (more powerful than the T2). iFixit noted the markings found on the mystery chip are different than the A10, so I suspect it may not be an A10 at all. We'll see — I don't think this story is done with yet.
    Is there something native to iOS apps that couldn't be emulated with the Mac's Intel chips? I doubt it, but I'm just guessing. There's no FaceID array, so the supposed A10 wouldn't be used for that function -- unless the FaceID array is added to a future peripheral?

    BTW, that black PC board finish looks nice.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 26
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 750editor
    GG1 said:
    nhughes said:
    This may be a dumb question, but is there any way the mysterious chip could be used to basically run iOS inside or beside macOS?

    This would actually be useful for me. There’s an indispensable Chinese data/reference/research tool I use that is iOS only.
    Until we know what the chip actually is (which will require an X-ray of it, and someone willing to pony up $5,000 to let their iMac Pro be destroyed), it's impossible to say. Not a dumb question though!

    From a user perspective, I don't think we're going to see vanilla iOS apps on the Mac (though the rumor is a unified code base coming in 2018 will make it easier to port and update/enhance iOS apps for the Mac). From a developer perspective, Xcode already emulates running apps on the Mac, and having an A-series coprocessor could be handy for developers.

    If it really is an A10 chip, and it's not currently being used for anything in the iMac Pro, then it could be an example of Apple baking hardware in for a future software update. I find that to be unlikely, however, and would imagine that the chip is being used for something already. If it's an A10, that's a pretty beefy chip (more powerful than the T2). iFixit noted the markings found on the mystery chip are different than the A10, so I suspect it may not be an A10 at all. We'll see — I don't think this story is done with yet.
    Is there something native to iOS apps that couldn't be emulated with the Mac's Intel chips? I doubt it, but I'm just guessing. There's no FaceID array, so the supposed A10 wouldn't be used for that function -- unless the FaceID array is added to a future peripheral?

    BTW, that black PC board finish looks nice.
    Face ID requires the A11 anyhow, so I don't think it would be related to that. And Intel chips are perfectly capable of emulating iOS, as evidenced by Xcode, but obviously a dedicated and native processor would run them better.

    If it is an A10 in the iMac Pro, frankly it baffles me. A low-power A-series chip would make more sense, to me, in a notebook, where it could be used for power saving functions.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 26
    Guys.
    What is wrong with a MBP with an external GPU?
    Is there a reason I don’t know to why they aren’t so popular.
    Only one thing: 16GB RAM.

    I just bought an iMac Pro to stop the gap between my 4-year old MBP and... the first MBP that has 32GB RAM? The way things are going in my industry, more and more of the workload is getting pulled off the processor (especially multicore rendering), and dumped on the GPU. Plus it would be really nice to own and maintain one machine, disconnect it from the office, and take it onsite or wherever... 
    edited January 2018 racerhomie3watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 26
    nhughes said:
    Guys.
    What is wrong with a MBP with an external GPU?
    Is there a reason I don’t know to why they aren’t so popular.
    For me, the biggest rub is you can't drive the eGPU horsepower to the MBP's internal Retina display. And because the only Retina-caliber monitors out there are LG UltraFine models that connect via USB-C and TB3, you can't use those with any eGPU rigs at the moment either, because graphics cards use legacy inputs like HDMI. So eGPU+MBP is fine for a dual-monitor setup, or with a VR headset, but I think dual monitors diminish the appeal of the Touch Bar.

    Apple is getting back into the display market, so I imagine we'll see some Retina-caliber displays that connect over TB3, and maybe even have their own integrated eGPUs. Toss in an external Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar, and I'm in -- but I might be asking for too much in 2018.
    There are lots of wonderful 4k 32"+ antiglare monitors available now for under $1,000, and they don't require a dongle to use them. The budget GPU in the MBP is fine for driving the internal display. That's what's nice about the eGPU's: they're scalable. You can buy what you need when you need it, and totally upgradable.
    racerhomie3
  • Reply 12 of 26
    bsimpsenbsimpsen Posts: 263member
    "A careful disassembly of the new iMac Pro has found another Apple-made chip in addition to the new T2, potentially confirming rumors that the desktop would feature an A10 Fusion coprocessor."

    Nonsense. That second Apple chip is far too small to be an A10. The entire package is smaller than the A10 die.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 26
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 750editor
    markaceto said:
    nhughes said:
    Guys.
    What is wrong with a MBP with an external GPU?
    Is there a reason I don’t know to why they aren’t so popular.
    For me, the biggest rub is you can't drive the eGPU horsepower to the MBP's internal Retina display. And because the only Retina-caliber monitors out there are LG UltraFine models that connect via USB-C and TB3, you can't use those with any eGPU rigs at the moment either, because graphics cards use legacy inputs like HDMI. So eGPU+MBP is fine for a dual-monitor setup, or with a VR headset, but I think dual monitors diminish the appeal of the Touch Bar.

    Apple is getting back into the display market, so I imagine we'll see some Retina-caliber displays that connect over TB3, and maybe even have their own integrated eGPUs. Toss in an external Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar, and I'm in -- but I might be asking for too much in 2018.
    There are lots of wonderful 4k 32"+ antiglare monitors available now for under $1,000, and they don't require a dongle to use them. The budget GPU in the MBP is fine for driving the internal display. That's what's nice about the eGPU's: they're scalable. You can buy what you need when you need it, and totally upgradable.
    A 32-inch 4K monitor is not Retina-caliber. Too low of a resolution for that size — the pixel density is far lower than Apple’s own Retina displays. 

    http://appleinsider.com/articles/17/06/26/psa-there-are-not-yet-any-retina-caliber-external-displays-compatible-with-apples-egpu-support-in-macos-high-sierra
    chiawatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 26
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 750editor
    iFixit ended up issuing a correction — they were wrong and it isn’t an A10 chip. A rather odd oversight for them. Our story has been updated to reflect this. 
    chiawatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,133member
    nhughes said:
    This may be a dumb question, but is there any way the mysterious chip could be used to basically run iOS inside or beside macOS?

    This would actually be useful for me. There’s an indispensable Chinese data/reference/research tool I use that is iOS only.
    From a user perspective, I don't think we're going to see vanilla iOS apps on the Mac (though the rumor is a unified code base coming in 2018 will make it easier to port and update/enhance iOS apps for the Mac).
    That wasn’t what I took away from the rumor. It seemed to me the new initiative is to enable devs to produce universal apps in Xcode, but that the macOS targets would be 100% Mac apps and not at all an iOS app, ported or otherwise. Having a master project with different view targets (iOS, iPad, macOS, tvOS, watchOS) enables a developer to leverage the same core business objects, data layer, biz rules, classes of helper functions, etc. This doesn’t imply porting or running iOS apps on Mac any more than it suggests running watchOS apps on Mac. They’re different output targets and will have entirely unique views. Having a tool to export the iOS views to macOS is very unlikely. 
    chiafastasleeptycho_macuser
  • Reply 16 of 26
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,267member
    nhughes said:
    This may be a dumb question, but is there any way the mysterious chip could be used to basically run iOS inside or beside macOS?

    This would actually be useful for me. There’s an indispensable Chinese data/reference/research tool I use that is iOS only.
    From a user perspective, I don't think we're going to see vanilla iOS apps on the Mac (though the rumor is a unified code base coming in 2018 will make it easier to port and update/enhance iOS apps for the Mac).
    That wasn’t what I took away from the rumor. It seemed to me the new initiative is to enable devs to produce universal apps in Xcode, but that the macOS targets would be 100% Mac apps and not at all an iOS app, ported or otherwise. Having a master project with different view targets (iOS, iPad, macOS, tvOS, watchOS) enables a developer to leverage the same core business objects, data layer, biz rules, classes of helper functions, etc. This doesn’t imply porting or running iOS apps on Mac any more than it suggests running watchOS apps on Mac. They’re different output targets and will have entirely unique views. Having a tool to export the iOS views to macOS is very unlikely. 
    No, the rumour was about running iOS applications on a Mac. Possibly without a recompile.  Although in the comments some people thought what you think and some people went totally off topic and thought it was about an iOS OS with a mouse. 

    What you think it is is already there. You can fire up Xcode and create a project with a macOS, iOS and watchOS target, sharing code where possible. In general this means the business logic. 


    nhughes
  • Reply 17 of 26
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,699member
    nhughes said:
    iFixit ended up issuing a correction — they were wrong and it isn’t an A10 chip. A rather odd oversight for them. Our story has been updated to reflect this. 
    I was hoping that it had something to do with project Marzipan.   Too bad.

    hoping Apple was beginning work to 1.  Provide mouse suppurt in iOS and then let those apps deploy to macOS.
  • Reply 18 of 26
    roakeroake Posts: 624member
    I would like to see Xcode and the Pro apps (Logic, etc.) on iOS.  Guess I’ll have to wait for the Truely Unified Apple OS release in 2021.
  • Reply 19 of 26
    GG1GG1 Posts: 236member
    nhughes said:
    GG1 said:
    nhughes said:
    This may be a dumb question, but is there any way the mysterious chip could be used to basically run iOS inside or beside macOS?

    This would actually be useful for me. There’s an indispensable Chinese data/reference/research tool I use that is iOS only.
    Until we know what the chip actually is (which will require an X-ray of it, and someone willing to pony up $5,000 to let their iMac Pro be destroyed), it's impossible to say. Not a dumb question though!

    From a user perspective, I don't think we're going to see vanilla iOS apps on the Mac (though the rumor is a unified code base coming in 2018 will make it easier to port and update/enhance iOS apps for the Mac). From a developer perspective, Xcode already emulates running apps on the Mac, and having an A-series coprocessor could be handy for developers.

    If it really is an A10 chip, and it's not currently being used for anything in the iMac Pro, then it could be an example of Apple baking hardware in for a future software update. I find that to be unlikely, however, and would imagine that the chip is being used for something already. If it's an A10, that's a pretty beefy chip (more powerful than the T2). iFixit noted the markings found on the mystery chip are different than the A10, so I suspect it may not be an A10 at all. We'll see — I don't think this story is done with yet.
    Is there something native to iOS apps that couldn't be emulated with the Mac's Intel chips? I doubt it, but I'm just guessing. There's no FaceID array, so the supposed A10 wouldn't be used for that function -- unless the FaceID array is added to a future peripheral?

    BTW, that black PC board finish looks nice.
    Face ID requires the A11 anyhow, so I don't think it would be related to that. And Intel chips are perfectly capable of emulating iOS, as evidenced by Xcode, but obviously a dedicated and native processor would run them better.

    If it is an A10 in the iMac Pro, frankly it baffles me. A low-power A-series chip would make more sense, to me, in a notebook, where it could be used for power saving functions.
    Yep, my mistake. A11 was what I'm thinking of.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 26
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    asdasd said:
    nhughes said:
    This may be a dumb question, but is there any way the mysterious chip could be used to basically run iOS inside or beside macOS?

    This would actually be useful for me. There’s an indispensable Chinese data/reference/research tool I use that is iOS only.
    From a user perspective, I don't think we're going to see vanilla iOS apps on the Mac (though the rumor is a unified code base coming in 2018 will make it easier to port and update/enhance iOS apps for the Mac).
    That wasn’t what I took away from the rumor. It seemed to me the new initiative is to enable devs to produce universal apps in Xcode, but that the macOS targets would be 100% Mac apps and not at all an iOS app, ported or otherwise. Having a master project with different view targets (iOS, iPad, macOS, tvOS, watchOS) enables a developer to leverage the same core business objects, data layer, biz rules, classes of helper functions, etc. This doesn’t imply porting or running iOS apps on Mac any more than it suggests running watchOS apps on Mac. They’re different output targets and will have entirely unique views. Having a tool to export the iOS views to macOS is very unlikely. 
    No, the rumour was about running iOS applications on a Mac. Possibly without a recompile.  Although in the comments some people thought what you think and some people went totally off topic and thought it was about an iOS OS with a mouse. 

    What you think it is is already there. You can fire up Xcode and create a project with a macOS, iOS and watchOS target, sharing code where possible. In general this means the business logic. 


    Yes, that was AI’s take on it, but it turned out to be completely different to everyone else’s. It’s unfortunate that a Google search for Project Marzipan puts the AI article above the Ars Technica piece. 

    At the moment, MacOs developers use the old NEXT-based UI framework for front-end coding. Coding the front-end for iOS means using the much fresher UIKit. Apple has been working on porting the UIKit to the Mac framework so that developers can share the same front-end library across iOS and the Mac.

    Yes, you can use XCode to target different platforms, but you still need to use different UI frameworks to build the apps. This has led to folk using other non-native toolkits to build apps, or even worse, skinning web pages into apps. 

    The first app that used the new framework is Photos for the Mac, so developers are expecting Apple to open the tech to everyone at WWDC 2018. As a side effect of this, a few developers posting I’ve at Ars Technica believe that Apple might be doing away with the Mac App Store, and moving to a single store for all their platforms. 

    I think StrangeDay’s take is closer to what is happening.

    Running iOS apps on MacOS would lead to a poor user experience, and since iOS is the dominant platform, the larger development shops such as Microsoft and Adobe would cut their costs by abandoning native Mac development and just tell people to run the iOS app instead. Fortunately, Apple is well aware of what happened to OS/2, and that’s one of the reasons they’ll steer clear of allowing iOS apps to run on the Mac. 

    It’s worth reading Gruber’s take, which highlights some of the pitfalls of the ‘shared framework’ approach. 

    https://daringfireball.net/2017/12/marzipan

    My concern with this whole situation is that even if this is all true — if Apple is indeed working on creating cross-platform UIKit-like frameworks for iOS and MacOS, and that the existence of such frameworks would spur more developers and companies to create Mac apps — it wouldn’t inevitably lead to the creation of good Mac apps.

    edited January 2018 fastasleepStrangeDays
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